Saturday, March 30, 2013

This is the night!

Tonight is the biggest night in the liturgical calendar.  Tonight, we will gather in churches, seminaries, and congregations around the world to keep vigil as we await the resurrection dawn.  We will tell our greatest stories, light the New Fire, remember our baptism, and feast around the table.

Even though this is my senior year at LSTC, and even though I've been on chapel staff for two of the years I've been here, this is the first time I'll be participating in LSTC's Easter Vigil service.  Because I'm the sacristan, there's been a lot for me to do to prepare for tonight, and I'm eager to begin this great celebration as we gather with two local congregations to share in my favorite night of the year.

Because of experiences a number of us had at Holden Village in January (Did I tell you about Holden?  No? I should do that soon...), I've fallen in love with using candles that are made of pure beeswax.  At Holden, we used 100% beeswax tapers for evening and night prayer, and somehow they made us feel more connected to God's creation.  Maybe it's because they smell like honey, or maybe its because their golden hue seems more natural and less processed by human intervention.  So, when we returned back to campus in February, I began plotting ways we could use more of this kind of wax in our worship at LSTC.

Behold, the 100% beeswax Paschal Candle, to be lit tonight at the Easter Vigil!

It's the little things in life, isn't it?

This candle, along with new beeswax altar candles and tapers, has got me very excited.  In the Exsultet, which is sung tonight, we will hear these words:  "We sing the glories of this pillar of fire, the brightness of which is not diminished even when its light is divided and borrowed.  For it is fed by the melting wax which the bees, your servants, have made for the substance of this candle."

When I hear those words, I'll be happy knowing that the pillar of fire is, indeed, fed by the work of bees.  I could go on for hours talking about why I think using pure beeswax is the best way to go, but the simple fact that this is a candle that we know comes from the most natural of sources is enough for me to feel more connected to God's creation on this holy night.

(P.S.  If you want some beeswax yourself, look up some Greek Orthodox monasteries here in the US.  They do great work!)

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Final Countdown

Time keeps on slipping, slipping...into the future...
Surrounded by the struggling, yet blossoming Spring it is strange just to sit here in the Treehouse and be contented especially on this Good Friday.
There are moments perhaps in the stillness of beautiful, abyss-full dark nights illuminated rarely, by a full moon that we may find ourselves awake for the amusement of lazy angels who curl comfortable in trees above our heads; under the watching eyes of the Holy Spirit who these past couple of days has poured Herself into my soul, prodding my mind gently as I crafted my sermon for a local Good Friday Service for this evening.
I am amazed how my life has ebbed and flowed, and how now I have arrived at this place in time. Joyful that we are almost to that Easter morning; thankful of what this week has always meant to me. Come Monday it is back to the insanity and chaos that is Seminary life and I write those words with love.
In about 15 days time, my fellow classmates and I will gather in the Chapel, joining hands and calming fluttering hearts as we find out exactly where we will be serving for the next academic year. Internship-didn't seem so nerve wracking 2 years ago and it is in these moments I am reflective-because it not only impacts me but also the tide of change that is occurring in my own hearth and home.
The comfort that I have known; the family that was just a couple of miles  away will now seem like light years. The community and the normal rhythm of life is beginning to shift and my eyes opened; opened to the possibilities of where Our Creator will point in the direction-and I shall follow.
For the time being, my spirit leaps in colorful abandoned, because of the coming of the Season-of renewal and rebirth, of the cementing of the promise and the rejoicing that this life is not finished, and death is not the end.
May you have a blessed Triduum.
The Hope of Easter Morning begins....
Lape Bondye, God's Peace.

Friday, March 15, 2013


I think right about we could all use one of these.

Usually March signals the shift in the atmosphere that we have all been clamoring for. Winter has had her run on the stage, and now the scene changes and the intermission is slowly coming to an end. The orchestra now lifts the flute to their lips, and we await the light trill; the orchestra positions the violia against its shoulders and we await a sunny note to be pricked. What instead we are met with is a long drawn out soliloquy which has no end.

The Ides of March also signals the countdown, one month until we merry folk find out exactly where we are going; The Internship process for our interesting and calico band of seminarians has been one to write home about-filled with laughter and with a mysterious air. Therefore as we hunker down in the Refectory and the library, hushed away in the deep, soft chairs of the Grand Hallway our eyes are bright with mischief and with the question "Can we just know already?" 

Does the thirst that perhaps has been quenched throughout academica, returned because we have the need to actually be immersed in ministry? To make that first home visit; preach sermon for the third time on Sunday; converse with colleagues at Synod meetings; preside over a funeral? To actually be on our own and see what life is like on the other side? Do we view our Senior peers with envy because they soon will be living the dream?

Or mayhaps the Holy Spirit is dancing throughout the rainstorm, telling us that its alright to come and play?  The idea of being a living witness through Christ radiates through our being and we will be able to share and journey with new fellow brothers and sisters. It is exciting and nerve wracking and hopeful and scary all at once.

And last week, we were able to shed some of that nervous energy as we honored our own St. Dorothy-who even as she leaps into semi-retirement, still is informing us and helping us with scholarships galore:

Here's to the coming Spring, and to finally able to sing the words..

Lape Bondye, God's Peace.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Leadership & Holy Spirit

2013 Leadership Conference
Tonight starts LSTC's annual Leadership conference, which is a great opportunity for alumni to gather, reconnect and engage in a great topic.  Of course, current students and community members may also take part, and I look forward to this year's event as I am pursuing an interfaith emphasis in my M.Div studies. 

LSTC's Leadership conference is yearly in the spring, amongst Lent, First year students researching MIC (Ministry In Context) sites, Second Year students interviewing for internship sites, and Senior students awaiting their synodical assignments.  As a first year student, I am currently researching MIC sites, which are churches where we spend 7 hours a week for two semesters in our second year of studies.  Since I am a commuter student, I am restricting to Madison, WI and have already identified various sites.  When I am in Chicago for the weekend, I go with classmates as they research various sites.  And I am grateful for these various visits for I believe we all tend to get stuck or comfortable in a particular style of worship, and I know I personally like to be greeted each Sunday morning by people I know.  But as I visit different ELCA churches, I find nuances and differences within each community which is a reflection of the vast richness of God's community.   Whether the preacher memorizes the gospel text, you sing bluesy well known spirituals, listen to a full choir sing an anthem in Latin or cross the aisle as you share God's peace, any where you go Sunday mornings you will see God's abundant creation and beauty.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

And to the Ends of the Earth

Seminary's winding down for us seniors, and many of us are starting to get an idea as to where we're going to be headed after graduation.  Last week, a good number of us received our regional assignments.  We'd given our preferences back in December, and we gathered in the chapel to find out which regions chose us.  If it felt like the NFL draft, I'm thinking it's because it was a lot like it.  After a short prayer service, we were each handed an envelope, and with bated breath, we opened to see what the Holy Spirit had in store for us.

Some of us found out we'd be going where we'd hoped to go.  A few of us were caught of guard.  Either way, that night we all had a better vision of what our lives will be like once we leave this place and begin our careers as pastors in the Church.

This is where some of us are being sent.
This week, we've been hearing, one-by-one, about which syonds in those regions we'll be going to, narrowing down the vision of the future even further.  It's exciting, and also slightly frightening.  As one of my friends said, "Some big questions have just been answered, but now there are new ones."  I think the majority of us, though, feel extremely confident in what we've learned at LSTC, as we've grown through the Spirit into our identities as pastors, leaders, and care-givers for God's people in this world.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Guilty Pleasures

I can always tell the state of my metal health by three things: how clean my apartment is; if my writing is sane enough to be published; and how many containers of Ben & Jerry's is currently in my freezer.

Right now, half the furniture is dusted, I am writing a blog post, and Chubby Hubby is taunting me from my kitchen.  So I'd say I'm halfway back to normal.

Stressful times are not uncommon while in seminary.  Right now the community bobbing up and down, ebbing and flowing with the stress filled waves of CPE openings, Senior Assignments, and Internship interviews.  Any one of these things is enough to make a person reach out for their favorite guilty pleasure.  The irony that they all occur in the Lenten season when chocolate is out and vegan Friday's is in does not escape me.

When I first started seminary, I didn't think anything could be more stressful than learning Greek.  A half a year later when I was on CPE in New Hampshire watching parents say goodbye to their newborn who had died from birthing related injuries, I realized that languishing over languages doesn't even scratch the surface of stressful.

Such as with life, a few months later when the sea had subsided and I was back in school, I again felt overwhelmed by language and found myself trolling the dairy aisle at the grocery store.  Stress is real.  Stress happens to all of us.  And it doesn't matter what has come before, when we are in the midst of a stressful time we crave those creature comforts as if for the first time.

It's important that comforts don't become their own source of stress.  As a stress eater, I could easily go up a pant size during finals.  It takes work to remember that when the water surges around us that the waves will again subside.  In the midst of my CPE sea, I never would have realized how much I benefited from the grace of watching parents say goodbye in a loving way.  I never would have realized that living in rural New Hampshire would make me courageous when applying for internships, ready to accept any geographic location or community size.

Our greatest guilty pleasure is the one we don't need to regret in the morning and the one that won't make stepping onto a scale a haunting experience.  The grace of our loving God gives us the life vest to bob in the water when our legs are tired of treading.

Perhaps the reason why CPE openings, Senior Assignments and Internship interviews happen during Lent is to help us remember to reach for our Bibles instead of walking towards the freezer.  Chubby Hubby is delicious, but the grace of God is a remedy that lasts forever. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

6 weeks , 45 days, 1008 hours, 60480 minutes until…

March Madness? Spring?

Perhaps those things and much more but now we weary travelers gather in front of the hearth awaiting the passing of this storm within and throughout Creation; a tsunami of classes, papers, reading and sleepless nights. We are released from the endless pasted smiles on our faces flowing down neatly cobbled hallways exchanging stories and baring our souls for strangers.  We huddle in darkened corners at stout carved wooden tables, mumbling and rearranging our futures with “So what are my top three choices again?” and “Do I really want to spend a year here?”

Meanwhile, the waterfalls have begun to open and push life forth as the Seniors are finding out now what Synod will be welcoming them and where they will be calling home. It is a shift in the atmosphere for many of us-we as Middlers/Interriddlers struggling over endless bridges of classes, trying to keep focused all the while realizing that in six weeks those doors will burst forth, opening us a new journey-and the Holy Spirit leading the way with a smile, in Her pink sandals cheering us along, calling out "You are a child of God!"

For now, we are hopeful for days that fill the skies with warmth and our afternoons playing volleyball, stretching out in the sun; in this Lenten season, we await that Sunday morning where the Sun will appear a bit different to our gaze but our souls will dances as fragile flames rejoicing at the coming of something phenomenal, something counter-cultural.

Lape Bondye, God's Peace.